Parenting years are like dog years. Even though I’ve only been a parent for one year, I’ve learned so many things (usually the hard way) that I want to share. Below are my biggest takeaways and hardest-won wisdom from the first year of parenting.
- No one remembers the newborn stage.
These wise words were passed to me at one of my baby showers, and now I’m passing them on to you. When you say you’re having a baby, everyone pictures a six month old. Anyone who has children over the age of three has forgotten the newborn stage. If we all had vivid memories of the first few months of a baby’s life, the species would not survive. People will have expectations for you that aren’t realistic. People will make ignorant comments about your choices. Everyone gets so excited when a new baby is added to the family, and they start picturing all the wonderful memories they’re going to make. Then the baby gets here and…they don’t do anything. They just lie there and soil diapers and cry. Be loving, patient, and firm as you help jog their memory on the realities of newborn life. 9 times out of 10, they will have a That’s So Raven-style vision of themselves in your situation back in the day.
- Snaps in the streets, zippers in the sheets
Repeat after me: snaps in the streets, zippers in the sheets. Do not put your baby to bed for the night in snap pajamas unless you want to teeter on the brink of insanity at 3 o’clock in the morning. Zipper jammies are the only jammies. Bonus points if they have the option to zip from either the top or bottom. For the newborn stage, I preferred snap-on outfits for daytime. You can lay them completely flat, lay baby on top, and snap them in. The alternative is having to pull something over your baby’s teeny tiny head multiple times a day.
- Never move a happy baby
As a new parent, you constantly feel like you should be doing something for your baby. You try to anticipate their needs, often to avoid hearing them cry when they get dissatisfied. Please hear me when I say: never move a happy baby. Make this your parenting mantra and repeat it to everyone who comes over to see the baby: If baby is happy, we leave baby alone. Because, inevitably, they will start crying. Guess what? If your baby needs or wants something, they will cry. It’s their WHOLE thing. Crying is their only way to communicate. If they are at all displeased with their current circumstances, you will know it. I’m not saying only pick up your baby if they cry. I’m just saying, less is more. If it ain’t broke don’t fix it. If they’re playing happily on their activity mat, don’t say, “Oh they’ve been playing here for a long time, they’re probably about to get bored. I’ll move them to their Boppy so they can prop up!” NO. Do not do it. Leave that baby playing happily on their mat. So much of parenting is just learning to breathe through the moments.
- Every mom has a capacity; operate at yours.
This is another nugget that was doled out to me by a mom friend. Every mom is different. Every baby is different. Some moms feel like they can snap their baby in the car seat and go all over creation, no problem. Some moms are overwhelmed by the thought of a simple errand (it me). Some babies are super low-maintenance and easygoing. Some babies thrive on a schedule or are more sensitive. Your household, your lifestyle, your personality, and your baby’s personality are all unique. Find what works for you and own it! Lyla was every bit of four months old before I felt comfortable taking her places. At her 48 hour checkup, the nurse said, “The flu’s already started this year. Stay home!” As a brand spanking new mama, those words embedded themselves in my brain. I was convinced we had to stay home for all of flu season, and then flu season ran long. Eventually, I was ready to start trying outings. I started with a small grocery run, then worked my way up. Lyla and I both prefer to follow a predictable routine. I stick to it as much as I can while also leaving room to live life. Some days we get out and about. Some days I just don’t have the energy and I know we are parked at the house that day. Don’t get caught up in what you “should” be doing. There are a million ways to do this mom thing right. Find your way and stick with it!
- Don’t be a glutton for punishment
When Lyla was 5 weeks old, we found out she had a milk allergy. There are only two types of formula in existence that she can drink. Both of them are $40 a can. Stretched thin by the cost, we tried to be frugal. We had ONE bottle in our entire house. ONE. We tried several and returned the ones that didn’t work for us. Instead of buying more of the bottles we were using, we washed one bottle and reused it every time. It sucked. And it wore out the nipple so we had to buy more. When she moved up to the next bottle size, we bought a multi-pack. One day into using it we were laughing at ourselves. Why had we ever lived with one bottle?! And yet, we didn’t learn our lesson. Fast forward to the sleep sack. Lyla sleeps and takes every nap in a sleep sack. For MONTHS we only had one because we were too cheap to buy another. If she peed or spit up and got it wet, we were out of luck. If it was in the wash…you guessed it, out of luck. We realized it was the bottle situation all over again! We bought a second sleep sack and don’t know how we ever lived without it. The moral of these stories is: don’t be a glutton for punishment. Don’t make life harder on yourself when there are resources available. If sleep is a nightmare and you don’t know how to fix it, take a sleep training course (We did Taking Cara Babies Newborn Course). If there’s anything you use as part of your daily routine, buy multiples! Of course sometimes there will be financial constraints, but try your best to skimp in areas other than baby care. It will save your sanity just as much as it will serve your baby.
Those are my MVPT’s (most valuable parenting tips)! I’m certainly not an expert. I have a lot left to learn; but I hope these tips will be helpful to someone who’s a step behind me on their parenting journey. What about you? What were the greatest pieces of advice you received about parenting? Any lessons you’ve learned the hard way? Share them in the comments!